Who initiates the help older parents give to midlife children

Meng Huo, Laura Napolitano, Frank F. Furstenberg, Karen L. Fingerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Older parents continue to help children after these children have been adults for decades. We utilize a typology approach to assess who initiates the help. We ask whether profiles of help initiation are associated with how often older parents help and how they evaluate their helping behaviors. Methods: Older parents (N = 241; Mage = 80.12) indicated the extent to which they volunteered to help children and helped per child's request. Parents reported their resources and obligation to help, child problems, frequency, and evaluation (rewards/stresses) of helping. Results: Latent profile analysis reveals four profiles representing parents who are initiators (n = 65), responders (n = 56), initiators/responders (n = 50), and uninvolved (n = 69). Resources, needs, and individual beliefs differentiate profiles. Parents offer the same amount of help regardless of who initiates such help. Parents who are initiators/responders view helping as more rewarding than parents who are initiators and more stressful than uninvolved parents. Discussion: This study reveals variation in the initiation of older parents' help and refines our understanding of family help in late life. Findings may suggest a parental expectation for children to be competent in adulthood regardless of their resources and willingness to help.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)907-918
Number of pages12
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 9 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


  • Intergenerational support
  • Needs
  • Obligation
  • Resources


Dive into the research topics of 'Who initiates the help older parents give to midlife children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this